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Sampo & Erhardt

Sci-Fi Archives

Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Episode guide: 518- The Atomic Brain (with short: ‘What About Juvenile Delinquency’)

Short: (1955) A teen gang member sours on his life of delinquency after his dad is mugged.
Movie: (1963) A rich, elderly woman wants her doctor to transplant her brain into the body of one of her young captives.

First shown: 12/4/93
Opening: M&tB have their final dress rehearsal for “Love Letters”
Invention exchange: M&tB are The Mads, The Mads are Crow and Tom Servo
Host segment 1: Tom is Weather Servo 9
Host segment 2: Mike demonstrates chin puppetry
Host segment 3: Magic Voice chats with the film’s voice-over guy
End: Crow is Hank Kimball–The Fugitive, Mike reads letters, “Dr.” Frank “consults” with Dr. Fist
Stinger: Spanish for “AAAAAAAH!”
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (209 votes, average: 4.14 out of 5)


• Although the movie is icky, and slows to a crawl in places, there’s plenty to like about this episode: solid riffing and fun host segments. I’m going with “good, not great.”
• The original title of this movie was “Monstrosity.”
• This episode was included in Rhino’s The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 3. In 2011 Shout! Factory re-released it as a single.
• Bill wrote the ultimate sendup of “Love Letters,” called “Hate Mail.”
• Mike, Trace and Kevin (and the rest of the staff for that matter) have surely spent a lot of time around pretentious theater people. They parody them beautifully in the opening.
• This is an inspired invention exchange, as the show almost folds in on itself with self-parody.
• One of the notable mistakes in the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide was in the listing of this episode, when they forgot to note that this episode has a short. And what a short it is!
• Incidentally, this short was riffed again by RiffTrax in 2009, and I don’t think Mike and Kevin even realized they’d done it before. Maybe it’s just that forgettable.
• The scenes in the short that take place in the teen hangout are eerily similar to the teen hangout scenes in “Teenage Strangler.”
• The Rhino version only contains one non-spaghetti ball bumper: a pan to the blackboard which gets hit by giant spitball. Maybe there were more in the original episode?
• Segment 1 is the first time Servo’s been in space since the Demon Dog incident, isn’t it? Note the nice sizzle sound effect as Mike touches Servo after he comes inside.
• There was a guy on a local kiddie show when I was growing up in the Philadelphia area that used to do a chin puppet routine, so I was familiar with the concept. Had anybody else encountered chin puppets before this?
• Returning to the theater from segment 2, Mike casually tosses Tom into his seat, much to his dismay. (I assume Kevin was on his back on the floor waiting to catch him.)
• The “old” jokes come fast and furious. My favorite: “Maybe you can take a real long time to write a check somewhere!”
• In segment 3, Magic Voice has her biggest part yet and her first commercial sign countdown in a while.
• Callbacks “So klandinctu!” (Crash of the Moons) Mike (hey how does HE know that?) says ”Trumpy you can do magic!” (Pod People) “Looking for the ‘Manos’ set.”
• At last we learn what the K in MST3K stands for.
• Dr. Fist, last seen in episode 505- MAGIC VOYAGE OF SINBAD, returns to punch Frank yet again.
• One of the biggest controversies between Rhino and the fans (and BBI) arose when this volume came out, without the stinger. Best Brains said they were certain that the master they sent to Rhino had the stinger. Rhino representatives were equally adamant that there was no stinger on the master. Somebody’s lying. We may never know who. In any case, the recent Shout re-release has the stinger.
• Cast and crew round up: Producer Jack Pollexfen also produced “The Indestructible Man.” Associate prod/screenwriter Vy Russell also worked on “The Indestructible Man, as did assoc producer/screenwriter Sue Dwiggens. Score composer Gene Kauer also composed the scores for “Agent for H.A.R.M.” and “The Beast of Yucca Flats.” In front of the camera, Frank Gerstle was also in “San Francisco International. Director Joseph V. Mascelli was cinematographer for “The Incredibly Strange Creatures…”
CreditsWatch: After three eps as a contributing writer, Bridget Jones returns to the list of writers for the rest of the season. Host segments directed by Jim Mallon.
• Fave riff from the short: “And the Suez Canal incident!” Honorable mention: “I’m too noodly!” and “You boys aren’t movin’ the stuff very well!”
• Fave riff from the movie: “The Cat Suite from ‘Carousel.’” Honorable mention: “Well, so much for the ‘landing on your feet’ theory.”

135 Replies to “Episode guide: 518- The Atomic Brain (with short: ‘What About Juvenile Delinquency’)”

  1. Sitting Duck says:

    @ #83: Remember Sampo’s Theorum. The only episode it doesn’t apply to is I Accuse My Parents.


  2. schippers says:

    #91 – I can’t vouch for #100’s assertion that the Zappa/RZZZZ ref you’re thinking of is from Killer Shrews, as I haven’t committed that one to memory. HOWEVER, I can definitively state that there is a direct RZZZZ reference (plus the line “Weasels ripped my flesh!”) in Gamera vs. Guiron, when the sexy space cannibal ladies shave the kid’s head.


  3. bobhoncho says:

    #82 sol-survivor, Bea was from my birthplace, huh? Kinda cool.


  4. ern2150 says:

    Free for Prime members:

    This one appears to have all spaghetti ball bumpers but the stinger is intact. Weird.


  5. Cornjob says:

    Apparently in the short the local populace felt that immediately declaring martial law made more sense than letting the police investigate. And the only hope of truth, justice, and the American way prevailing was for a 16 year old to rat on his friends.

    Speaking of which, if the protagonist was a committed rebel that lived to oppose society (which is plastic, Man!), by any means necessary, shouldn’t he have been glad his gang beat his dad up. I’m not try to encourage dad beating, but if him and his gang routinely beat up older guys, most of whom were someone’s dad, he sure got self righteous when his dad got beaten. Not to mention what someone above pointed out, namely that his buddies didn’t know it was his dad.

    This is the sort of thing that really should be anticipated and accounted for ahead of time. If parents are off limits, each gang member should provide the other members with detailed descriptions and hopefully a good photo of each parent.


  6. Cornjob says:

    The scientist in the movie should get a Re-Animator Award for not just successfully grafting the brain of a human to the central nervous system of a cat, but cramming a human brain inside the skull of a cat with no apparent damage, impaired functioning, or side affects. Aside from those associated with being in a cat body.

    This weeks Dr. Crazy also get’s a Suicidal McGyver Award for his domestic nuclear holocaust solution to a police investigation. Sir, we salute you. We are impressed!


  7. Luther Strickland says:

    Good episode. The Stephen Stills references to the dog-man are hilarious. Barney Fife as the doomed cemetery guard is a nice touch too.

    The short has a couple of nice touches — the tormented teen goes from his home at Shakey’s Pizza to a booth at the laundromat. “What’ll you have fellas, I write it with my new pencil.” “Hey, those are great!” So let’s see, are these guys Crips or Bloods?

    As for the best looking of the “international” female cast — Nina, by a long shot. Still, there is some social commentary on the fifties that buxom, almost plump, Bea was regarded as the “best.” Zombie girl was quite attractive as well.

    Magic Voice’s “conversation” with the narrator is an outstanding piece of writing and editing.


  8. 1 adam 12 says:

    Fave riff from movie: “And she falls… gently to her death.” Honorable mention: “You’re all from Nebraska! Cut it out!”
    Fave riff from short: “I’m too noodly!” I use that one all the time, much to my wife’s dismay.


  9. david francis white says:

    I will learn to bi-locate at will!!! I can generate enough energy to bend time and space!!!


  10. Strummergas says:

    Whew! Bad movie, ok sketches, good riffing, but still not an easy episode to get through. Even You Tube was having trouble playing this experiment without stopping every now and then to take a break! 3 stars for this one as the riffing saves it from a worse fate.

    I’ll take Bea over the other ladies in the film, but then again, I’m a big fan of Christina Hendricks, so I guess my choice is not all that surprising!


  11. Chaotic Yak says:

    I actually like this episode quite a bit and I like the feature better than the short. That doesn’t happen very often for me, but in this case… I love the singing they do, all the riffs on the really bad accents and especially the “There’s a naked girl in this movie and she’s nude! …with no clothes on!”

    There was just so much to make fun of in this movie, even with how dark it was. The brain transplants are the most apparent to me. They put a cat’s brain in a human head and Mike points out that they must have used stuffing to keep the brain from rattling around inside the much larger skull. Then, Mrs. March’s brain goes into the cat…but how in the name of Ned does it fit in that little head? Their safety valve is to ignite the atomic pile and set off a nuclear explosion. Huh? How is it that Anita can somehow make cat sounds when it was just the brain that was transplanted? What kind of revenge can a cat expect to get? And on and on. It was so ridiculous that I forgot how dark it was.


  12. Charles Solution says:

    Regarding the short– ever get the idea that the people who write public-service-message morality plays are at least a little clueless about the actual inner workings of whatever the problem du jour is? As Cornjob noted almost four years ago, you’d think this would’ve come up before.

    As for chin puppets– there’s a memorable bit in an episode of Red Dwarf, and I know I’ve seen it now and again, but it sure one of those mildly obscure weird things.


  13. David J says:

    I was exposed to chin puppets at day camp and later in Weird Al Yankovic’s music video for “Dare to Be Stupid”.

    It’s a fun episode. The movie isn’t that memorable, as is evident by how few host segments are related to it, but they have a lot of fun with the music and some of the weird concepts like the lady with the cat’s brain.

    I remember really loving it when that lady asks “Could you tell me-” and they interrupt with “Where my accent is from?”
    Also the drunk guy reading his own note and them chiming in “By the time I read this, you’ll be dead.”


  14. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    I’ll save Sitting Duck some trouble and report that The Atomic Brain passes The Bechdel Test: Nina and Bea have several conversations that have nothing to do with Victor, Dr. Frank, or Dog-Man (or, for that matter, the Narrator).

    Alison Bechdel is quite a nice person, btw. As a fan of her work (heterosexual male though I am), I’ve exchanged e-mails with her a few times.


  15. Sitting Duck says:

    The Atomic Brain passes the Bechdel Test. Not surprising, seeing as how four of the six characters with speaking parts are women.

    I don’t get why Jamie’s former gang is so against them going to the town council meeting. Did I miss something?

    Then current riff: That’s Prince’s new name, isn’t it?

    IIRC in the ACEG the Brains expressed some shame over the operetta-style lyrics they featured in this episode. Personally, I thought they were fun.

    @ #114: Oh, it’s no trouble.

    Favorite riffs

    Dusting is so bourgeois.

    We’re going to miss the Soup of the Day, jerk.

    “He’s resting, now.”
    Or he’s dead. It’s hard to tell with him.

    The next weekend, Dad’s golf buddies come and beat up Jamie.

    Tell you what. You can beat up my dad.

    Permit me to sing something from Man of La Mancha.

    What’s the rush? There’s going to be three hours of zoning stuff first.

    “I say let’s let them talk.”
    I say let’s put them through the Spanking Machine.

    It’s a delightfully whimsical murder.

    Boss, was I really a mistake like the man said?
    No, you were a little miracle.

    “Where were the live, fresh bodies that he had been promised?”
    Why straight from your grocer’s freezer!

    “Well application forms for a serving girl don’t usually include bust, waist, and hip measurements.”
    Except at Hooters.

    Sheep-like passengers, too stupid to appreciate technologies inherited from long-range bombers.

    You’re all from Nebraska. Cut it out!

    They’re off to a murder in sunny California!

    “Making love to an eighty year old woman in the body of a twenty year old girl is insanity.”
    They do it every day in L.A.

    Clara Peller in Rear Window.

    The continental breakfast is at eight, and if you hear screaming, don’t listen.

    Look at all the amenities that Anita got.

    Did I hear someone packing?

    There’s nothing like the feel of a real hip.

    “For this, he received a Nobel Prize.”
    And I got a People’s Choice Award.

    “Bea, don’t talk like that.”
    I’ve been meaning to tell you that the whole movie.

    “I’m a practical woman, Dr. Frank.”
    Now lop my head off.

    You see, this is why I don’t like cats. They blow up the nuclear pile on you.


  16. DarkGrandmaofDeath says:

    So, not long ago I was watching a movie called Zombies of Mora Tau, and immediately spotted Marjorie Eaton. I thought, “Wow, great to see Mrs. March in something else!” THEN I spotted Gene Roth and Allison Hayes. And I started looking up all the cast and crew of this movie and found:

    Marjorie Eaton

    Gregg Palmer (Rebel Set)

    Gene Roth

    Allison Hayes

    Morris Ankrum (Beginning of the End)

    Ray “Crash” Corrigan (Undersea Kingdom)

    Mel Curtis (Phantom Planet)

    Chet Brandenburg (The Deadly Mantis, uncredited)

    Frank Hagney (Teenage Crime Wave)

    Edward L. Kahn (director, She-Creature)

    George Plympton (writer, The Phantom Creeps)

    Sam Katzman (producer, Teenage Crime Wave)

    Mischa Bakaleinikoff (music, Teenage Crime Wave [uncredited])

    Benjamin H. Kline (dir/photography, Last of the Wild Horses)

    Paul Palmentola (asst director, Teenage Crime Wave, I Accuse My Parents)

    Sidney Clifford (set decoration, Teenage Crime Wave)

    Josh Westmoreland (sound dept, Teenage Crime Wave)

    That’s a lot of MST peeps!

    I know this isn’t pertinent to a discussion about The Atomic Brain, but I really wanted to post this somewhere, and share the info. So there.


  17. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Rifftrax subsequently riffed this same short. Considering the literally uncounted shorts that remain unriffed by anyone, that seems like kind of an odd move. Oh well.

    Jamie’s reaction (“What?! When did THIS happen?!”) implies (to me, anyway) that ganging up on random citizens was unfamiliar activity to him. Clearly, he missed the anti-student anti-council meeting in which authorization of this item was on the agenda.

    Perhaps he “just” switched their electrical brain impulses instead, with no surgery involved — this was evidently also the method employed by the Eureka Hospital Experimental Laboratory of the Paul Revere Foundation in 1948 (“Hot Cross Bunny”) — but he didn’t think Miss March would understand that (“It’d take a *scientist* to explain it…”), so he dumbed it down for her by saying he “switched brains.”

    And even then, she didn’t get it. She exclaims that Anita “thinks she’s a cat” and asks if she had “all the instincts of a cat.” Uh, yeah, that’s not Anita THINKING she’s a cat, Mother Hubbard, it’s Xerxes in Anita’s body KNOWING that she(?)’s a cat. Sort of.

    Having finished his work with (as she’s credited on IMDB) “the Walking Corpse,” kind of an odd move on Dr. Frank’s part to just let her, y’know, walk around at random. “Ahh, she’ll be fine, I’ll think of something to do with her once I’m finished with the old bat’s business.”

    Not too dissimilarly, in “The Astro-Zombies” (1968), another mad scientist (our old pal John Carradine) has a woman in a bikini strapped to a lab table…and does absolutely nothing with/to her throughout the entire movie. She’s just THERE, in the background. I suppose Carradine was in the middle of using her in some project when, suddenly, a light-bulb moment: “No, wait! Astro-Zombies! EVEN BETTER! I’d better get cracking on this while the inspiration’s fresh! The strapped-down bikini-woman’ll keep…not like she’s *going* anywhere…”


  18. JCC says:

    AARGH that Bechdel Test stuff upsets my maverick Politically Incorrect manly man persona! :-))


  19. Johnny's nonchalance says:

    Starting with episode 101, I’ve been writing a sort of stream of consciousness response/episodic recap of elements most memorable to me from each episode of MST3K. I finally got up to date with the episode guide, so I thought I’d post it. This is the 92nd episode, not counting KTMA. Here goes.

    518: She Creaks

    Because she’s old,
    as she’s a she, she must
    be possessed of the vampiric
    lust and need to drain strangers
    to replenish from the flesh
    of women lesser in age

    For her onlookers were
    lost in the habit of gawking
    as we do at train wrecks and
    defects, old homes left lost
    now in an oversized house
    counting the hours to either
    break out or chase the string
    and mouse from the cellar
    roused now without thinking

    For in what thoughts does she
    leave the decrepit anteroom
    and stair-well without clinging
    to the railing that has sustained
    any semblance of balance
    that as such was the crutch
    leant and borrowed time after
    time ravaged the last strength
    that kept her from a carcass
    both becoming and endowing
    in others an analogous state—
    further fissions in the brain

    by: Johnny’s nonchalance

    Mein fuhrer, I can walk!


  20. JCC says:

    Sitting Duck:

    IIRC in the ACEG the Brains expressed some shame over the operetta-style lyrics they featured in this episode. Personally, I thought they were fun.

    I read that as playful teasing. When I see BTS footage of the Best Brains crew one of their group humor leitmotifs is to make fun of each other over little mistakes and failures, in a light hearted manner.


  21. Hotchka! says:

    The riff that really stayed with me on this one was when the old lady has been strapped down and sedated and they quietly say in a stoned out voice, “Ohhhh, I’m kissing god….”


  22. Bruce Boxliker says:

    I’m in the good, not great camp with this episode. It certainly has it’s moments, but overall it’s just not one I watch often.

    I’m pretty sure I read or saw an interview with Mike &/or Kevin and they said they had completely forgotten ever doing this short.

    I remember having to do a chin puppet thing in cub scouts back in the early 80s. Even then I knew it was kind of dumb.


  23. Bat Masterson says:

    @ 115 I believe Jamie’s ex-gang figured that Jamie would tell the city council about all of the gang’s misdeeds.

    I like this episode. The short is rather sympathetic to Jamie’s predicament, unlike the hellish world presented in “Cheating”, and Jamie comes across as a rather naive and rebellious but generally good kid who got caught up with a bad crowd but quits the gang after they go after his dad. One thing that struck me as odd was how a city council could raise the age of a driver’s license, seems to me that would require legislation statewide.

    The movie was rather icky, but it just didn’t seem to have the unpleasantness of The Brain That Wouldn’t die.You have the perverted old lady, the horribly accented young women, and the creepy doctor and his assistant. Mike and the Bots fire on all cylinders and tear the movie apart, the host segments, with the exception of the chin puppet segment were all awesome as well.

    Fave riffs:


    “C’mon guys, let’s go study!”

    “Stop not using the doors. You start off not using the doors the next thing you know you’re beating up Gordon Jump.”

    “You boys haven’t been moving the stuff very well.”


    I’ll get it , I’ll get it, I have to do everything around here.”
    Crow as cat

    “Can you tell me where my accent is from?”

    “You’re all from Nebraska! Cut it out!”

    “Making love to an eighty year old woman with the body of a twenty-year old woman was insanity” “Oh, they do it all the time in L.A.”

    “I’m looking for the Manos set.”


  24. thequietman says:

    “Let’s see here, ‘suck it, fathead’… NOW WAIT JUST A MINUTE!”

    I find this a bit uncanny but despite not seeing it in years I remember all the host segments from this one, from “Love Letters” to Weather Servo 9 to Magic Voice. All but the Invention Exchange. Maybe it’s because Vol. 3 was one of the first sets I got and I was so excited to finally see more CC eps that it just stuck for whatever reason.

    As for the film, to have a brain-dead zombie girl AND a feral cat-girl in the same picture all I can say is someone had some real issues with women they were working out on the screen.

    The short though, is pure gold. When I saw it I immediately wished it had been on one of the Shorts compilations so I could have seen it sooner.


  25. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    “Well, so much for the ‘landing on your feet’ theory.”

    Well, to be fair, they weren’t the cat’s feet, they were Anita’s feet.

    So what happened to ANITA’S brain / brain-waves / whatever, anyway? Hm.

    “Making love to an eighty year old woman with the body of a twenty-year old woman was insanity”

    Ah, but was it as insane as vice versa?

    “a brain-dead zombie girl AND a feral cat-girl”



  26. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    #115: I don’t get why Jamie’s former gang is so against them going to the town council meeting.

    Because they’re rebels and rebels don’t go any party thrown by The Man…


  27. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Off-topic, just curious, how many people recognized the “Hot Cross Bunny” reference in Post #117? Wasn’t “too obscure,” I hope. ;-)


  28. thequietman says:

    *Raises hand*

    I did!

    “Looks like Doc here is a victim of fowl play!”


  29. Sitting Duck says:

    Perhaps it’s just me, but when the football team captain is telling off the delinquents, his statements made absolutely no sense.


  30. jklope4 says:

    The old woman in the short and the old woman in the movie were the same, right?


  31. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Here’s a bit of info that I learned too late to post under the relevant episode, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, so I’m offering it here:

    The movie’s setting (or at least where it was filmed), Tarrytown, New York, also happens to be the setting of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

    You know, with the HEADless Horseman…

    What are the odds, huh? ;-)


  32. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    >>>As for the film, to have a brain-dead zombie girl AND a feral cat-girl in the same picture all I can say is someone had some real issues with women they were working out on the screen

    Just imagine if it were re-made today.

    Or perhaps don’t do that…

    On another note, I’m not sure post-op “Anita” qualifies as a cat-girl because, well, she’s not a girl who’s been made part-cat, she’s an actual CAT in a human body. It’d be more “accurate” to think of her as a cat who’s been physically transformed into a “human.”

    But I dunno.

    Xerxes wasn’t a, well, “sentient being” as a cat, she(?) was “just an animal” — that sounds kind of crass, I suppose, but it’s true — and being “put” into a human body wouldn’t change that. It wouldn’t make her(?) one bit more sentient.

    I guess.

    So, technically, post-op “Anita” would, on some level, continue to be “owned” by Dr. Frank (since the “brain” of his cat, his *property*, is what’s “steering” Anita’s body), who could, legally, do almost anything he wanted to his own cat (and I’m guessing that, in the sixties, laws against cruelty to animals were much less “restrictive”) with or without his cat’s “consent” — when you think about it (“So don’t think about it.”), pets can’t really “consent” to ANYTHING their owners do to them; for instance, we don’t allow pets decide for themselves whether or not they’re going to get shots and, heck, Xerxes didn’t consent to being put in Anita’s body to begin with (nor did Anita consent to be part of the proceedings, but that’s something else again) — and thus could pretty much do anything he wanted to post-op “Anita.”

    But I, as noted, dunno.

    I was going to continue this line of thought but instead decided to stop it in its tracks right here. You’re welcome. ;-)

    And, again, we’re left to wonder what happened to Anita’s “brain.” She didn’t go into the cat’s body because that’s where Ms. March ended up. Unless the cat’s body ended up as The Cat with Two Brains.

    I guess.


  33. Basil says:

    > This episode was included in Rhino’s The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 3. In 2011 Shout! Factory re-released it as a single.

    Don’t forget that Shout! Factory is also re-releasing Volume 3 in September:


  34. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    Did I take things too far? I took things too far, didn’t I? Sorry about that. :-|


  35. Johnny at the fair says:

    I have this one on the old Rhino vhs, release. Doubt Mike and Kevin forgot they already riffed, the short, Rifftrax has long displayed they don’t care about retreading, the same stuff over and over.


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